Pop and Quirk: Television’s two Hannibals


Jaymie Baxley Pop and Quirk


This week’s column is a tale of two Hannibals. More specifically, it’s a tale of two television shows about guys named Hannibal.

One is being canceled during its prime, while the other doesn’t appear quite ready for primetime.

The former is NBC’s psychological thriller starring the iconic cannibal with discerning taste, Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Introduced in author Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel “Red Dragon,” Lecter was made famous by Anthony Hopkins’ hammy performance in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Despite having just 16 minutes of screen time in the film, Hopkins won the Academy Award for Best Actor and went on to star in two sequels.

Beloved as the character’s film and book appearances are, the television series’ take on Lecter feels simultaneously different and definitive.

In its first season, “Hannibal” emerged as an often-brilliant thriller that tested the limits of how much gore was acceptable to show on network television. Although it occasionally stooped to procedural tropes and killer-of-the-week episodes, the show mostly felt like a breath of fresh air when it premiered in 2013.

“Hannibal” established itself as one of the best shows on television in its second season, which The A.V. Club lauded as a “psychedelic, psychological meditation on life and mortality, perception and reality.”

The first few episodes of the show’s current season are some of the most daring hours of television I’ve seen. Surreal and sumptuous, “Hannibal” seems bent on alienating newcomers in its third year.

During a recent interview with The Guardian, showrunner Bryan Fuller admitted that his crew isn’t interested in “making television,” at least not in the mainstream mold.

“We are making a pretentious art film from the 80s,” he said.

Given Fuller’s unwillingness to roll out a welcome mat for casual viewers, it’s unsurprising that NBC nixed the struggling series on June 22.

The cancellation continues Fuller’s streak of macabre shows — “Dead Like Me,” “Pushing Daisies” — that win critical acclaim but fail to draw enough viewers to support their ambitious budgets.

But Fuller hasn’t given up on “Hannibal” and is reportedly shopping the show to other networks. Netflix and Amazon Prime initially appeared to be the most promising prospects, but Fuller announced recently that both streaming services had passed on “Hannibal.”

The other show, “Why? with Hannibal Buress,” premiered Wednesday on Comedy Central.

Buress is a likable standup comedian with a talent for sly non-sequiturs and a laconic delivery that recalls Norm McDonald. His profile has grown over the past couple of years thanks to supporting roles on “Broad City” and “The Eric Andre Show.”

A joke that Buress told about Bill Cosby’s alleged history of drugging and sexually assaulting women sparked a global reassessment of the legendary comedian after it went viral last year. The attention emboldened multiple women to go public with their allegations against Cosby, tarnishing the 77-year-old’s wholesome reputation.

In the first episode of “Why?,” Buress acknowledges his role in the controversy with a paranoid quip about a housekeeper being a “Cosby assassin.”

It might have been the only time I laughed during the entire half-hour premiere.

Buress is destined for comedy stardom, but the painfully unfunny pilot suggests “Why?” won’t be the vehicle that takes him there.

Jaymie Baxley writes about arts and entertainment for The Robesonian. “Pop and Quirk” is his weekly pop culture column. Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at jbaxley@civitasmedia.com.

Jaymie Baxley Pop and Quirk
http://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/web1_jaymiewhite-1-1.jpgJaymie Baxley Pop and Quirk

http://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/web1_Hannibals1.jpg

Jaymie Baxley writes about arts and entertainment for The Robesonian. “Pop and Quirk” is his weekly pop culture column. Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at jbaxley@civitasmedia.com.

Jaymie Baxley writes about arts and entertainment for The Robesonian. “Pop and Quirk” is his weekly pop culture column. Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at jbaxley@civitasmedia.com.

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU


9:20 pm
Updated: 9:37 pm. |    
Tribal Council picks Blanks as speaker
6:46 pm
Updated: 7:52 pm. |    
NC snowed under, but not here
comments powered by Disqus